Party with a purpose: 5 Austin startups make charity their business

by Colin Morris
September 18, 2015
With all the hype, sometimes startup culture gets a bad rap for too closely resembling a college fraternity — working hard and playing hard, then playing hard some more. But these five Austin startups are making time for another kind of team building altogether, and working in some play along the way.
 
[ibimage==37221==Original==none==self==ibimage_align-center]Signpost angels at a fundraiser in Brentwood Park benefitting underprivileged student athletes.

Signpost

More than 10 employees have adopted dogs at this CRM software maker, and they’re welcome to bring them to work. So when they decided to raise money for a local charity, Austin Pets Alive was an obvious choice. It was also a no-brainer that the uber-competitive sales team from a company whose unofficial slogan is “Signpost wins” would love a beer pong tournament.
 
“Those guys are known for killing it at beer pong,” said Kristi Morris, a recruiter at Signpost. “There was a lot of shit talking at the event."
 
Employees each paid $25 to participate in the tournament at Old School Bar and Grill, whose management donated the venue so 100 percent of the proceeds would go to charity.
 
Signpost also held a middle-school-style field day at Brentwood Park for its employees to raise money for Good Sports, which donates sporting equipment to underfunded athletic programs at Austin schools.
 
“It’s important when people move here for the opportunity at Signpost that they also get to know people in Austin,” Morris said. “60 percent of our hires come from referrals, but some of the reps don’t know anyone. So this way, they’re out shaking hands in the community, and ultimately it helps me."
 
[ibimage==37220==Original==none==self==ibimage_align-center]The Q-mmunity Crew "Packs the Pack" for underprivileged students.

Q1Media

Not to be out-punned, Q1Media assembled a team of volunteers called the Q-mmunity Crew to complete projects for a different charity every month.
 
“We want to be able to touch different parts of our community in Austin overall,” said Lindsay Glancz, an HR specialist at the firm. “Everyone likes it. It’s really rewarding."
 
For the first project, the Q-mmunity Crew wanted to help families who struggle to equip their kids to go back to school this time of year. They launched a project called “Pack the Pack," filling 72 backpacks with notebooks, pens, erasers and other supplies and donated them to SafePlace, which supports families recovering from domestic violence, 39 percent of whose residents are children.
 
The Q-mmunity Crew is planning its next project to benefit the Capital Area Food Bank this fall.
 
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SchooLinks CEO Katie Fang

SchooLinks

Kara Schell cares a lot about Austin, and like all her co-workers at SchooLinks, she's into education. Outreach at local schools is part of her job on the company’s marketing team, but starting Tuesday, she took it a step further by touring four Austin high schools to meet with guidance counselors and show them how they can serve more students.
 
"They have a challenging job, because a lot of the public schools are overcrowded, with senior classes of 500 students, and most high schools will focus on the top 10% of them,” Schell said. "It’s not their fault, that’s how it’s structured and they’re overwhelmed. But if I can show them how to use SchooLinks for free, it makes their lives so much easier."
 
It’s not purely altruistic, since getting counselors and students to use the site is key to its growth. But Schell doesn’t stop there. She’s been emailing students, parents and PTA presidents directly—anyone and everyone she can find who is in a position to help kids get the education they want and need.
 
We’re solely here to close gaps and give kids an opportunity to get a great education.
 
"Austin’s such a great city,” said Schell, who attended Anderson High School and UT Austin. "I want to give back to it, and give these kids a chance to take advantage of all the potential they have.”
 
The company is also offering a $5,000 scholarship through an online raffle. To enter, students of any age must register on SchooLinks and ask their Facebook friends to sign up, too. Every friend who signs up is another raffle entry for the original applicant, who can enter up to 10 times.
 
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Civitas Learning

SchooLinks isn’t the only EdTech company using philanthropy to further their mission. From sponsorships to school supply drives, fundraising parties and learning events for non-profits, Civitas Learning stays active with Austin non-profits.
 
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Employee Experience Specialist Emily Washburn said it’s all part of their mission to “help a million more students learn well and finish strong … through relationships we have with our partners – and the relationships we help them to have with their students.”
 
“We have a great desire to further our commitments to our community in this next school year,” she said. “We have been raising money for the Center for Child Protection for the past few years with burger/taco cook-off competitions and bowling tournaments, and we’ve been hosting seven classes for Big Brothers Big Sisters at our new office space about what we do at Civitas.”
 
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Aunt Bertha

As you might expect, the company behind this public benefits search engine is all about helping people in need (motto: Reach More. Serve Better.). Aunt Bertha plans all-staff service days a few times a year and volunteer with a local nonprofit in the community, most recently serving more than 300 lunches at Caritas of Austin.
 
Sales VP Chris Dunkin said it’s always a great experience, and this was no exception.
 
“It was impactful to all of us to be able to help people in need in such an hands-on way,” he said. “The staff at Caritas are doing exceptional work and were very grateful for our help.”
 
{C}{C}{C}Have a tip for us or know of a company that deserves coverage? Email us via [email protected].
 
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